Wondering how to use an abs roller to strengthen your core? The humble abs roller is one that we sometimes neglect for more sizable pieces of gym equipment, but don’t underestimate the best ab rollers – when incorporated into the best abs workouts, it’s one of the most effective tools for working out all of your core muscles in just a few minutes per day, from the comfort of your own home.
The roller doesn’t need to be expensive either and their small size means that unlike the best treadmills, it won’t take up much space, meaning it’s a handy piece of workout gear for anyone, even if you’re in an apartment. If you’re new to using an abs roller, or could do with a refresher, here’s what you need to know about improving your core fitness with the device.
How to use an abs roller
Using your abs roller helps with stability, balance, flexibility, and muscle strength – which can benefit just about everyone. Various abs roller workouts can improve all of the major core muscles, including the obliques, abdominals, and spinal muscles, but can also help with your arms, core, and glutes.
The easiest abs roller workout to start with is the basic roll-out. Start by grasping the roller with both hands with your knees and feet on the mat. Slowly roll forward, contracting your abs and keeping your core engaged. Hold the position for a second or two, and then roll back in.
A common mistake is to try to go as far forward as you can, but this is a recipe for disaster that can cause lower back pain or shoulder injuries. Instead, go slowly until you really start to feel it in your abdominal muscles, then bring it back in. Aim for five repetitions in a set, building up your rep count over time.
While ab rollers can be fun to use, always start gently to avoid injury. If you’re recovering from an illness or injury, ask your doctor first to make sure you’re ok to start a new fitness routine with your abs roller.
In addition to the above, there are plenty of exercise variations you can try. Here are a few to add to your routine:
Using an abs roller can take your basic plank to the next level. With the abs roller on the ground, slowly roll forward and lift up your knees, keeping your back straight and tightening your abs.
Keep the abs roller and your body still while you hold the plank position for 20-30 seconds, then repeat. This exercise is ideal for core strength but also works your glutes and shoulders.
Ready to fire up the obliques? Knee tucks are great for this. If your ab roller has foot attachments, attach each foot and then pull yourself up into a plank. Your arms should be straight and directly in line with your shoulders.
Then, slowly pull your knees forward towards your chest, keeping your core tight. For the obliques, bring in the knees at an angle toward your left elbow, alternating between each side.
Once you’re feeling more confident with your abs roller, you might want to advance to a pike. You’ll start in the same position as the knee tuck, but this time you’ll keep your legs straight and use your core to pull your legs forward, pushing your glutes upwards, creating an upside-down ‘V’ shape.
Aim for 5-10 reps, but this exercise can be tricky, requiring balance, muscle strength, and flexibility, so go easy on yourself if you can’t nail it right away.
After a few weeks of working with your abs roller 3-4 times per week, you’ll start to notice increased strength, flexibility, and capability to do more reps, so what are you waiting for? An ab roller is a versatile and effective training tool for any home gym.
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Katie Dundas is an American freelance writer and fitness enthusiast and graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, now based in Sydney, Australia. She’s passionate about the outdoors and loves swimming, diving, running, and long walks with her very energetic dog, but she’s also partial to reformer Pilates.
She’s written for travel and lifestyle publications including BBC Travel, Outdoor Fitness & Adventure, Business Insider, Fodor’s, TechRadar Pro, Lifewire, and ScubaDiving.com.
Her top fitness tips? Find an exercise or sport you enjoy, as it means working out becomes something fun–not a chore. It’s also great to work out with friends as it keeps you accountable.